FORT WORTH — In several regards, Saturday night’s deciding Game 3 of a Class 4A area round playoff series between Guyer and Burleson Centennial was eerily similar to Thursday’s Game 1, which the Lady Wildcats won fairly easily.
In that game — a 6-1 Guyer win — junior pitcher Shayne Starkey needed just 69 pitches to complete a four-hitter against a heavy-hitting Lady Spartans team. But that night, Starkey, Guyer’s No. 3 hitter, was just 1-for-4 with an RBI.
On Saturday, when her team needed her most, Starkey won the game with her arm and her bat, leading the Lady Wildcats to a 5-1 victory and a berth in the 4A Region I quarterfinal — Guyer’s deepest postseason run since 2010 when it advanced to the 4A state tournament.
Guyer will face No. 10 Aledo (25-4), the team that ended its season last year, in a best-of-three series beginning Thursday at Hurst L.D. Bell. Game 2 will be Friday, while Game 3, if necessary, will be played Saturday. All games will start at 7:30 p.m.
“We know she brings a lot offensively,” Guyer head coach Keith Medford said. “She was a little more patient as we went on. We have complete faith in her, that’s why she’s in the 3-hole. That’s nothing we, as coaches, did. We didn’t make any change with her. That was her on her own being more patient and more selective. She’s a baller.”
Starkey finished 3-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs. She knocked in those three runs in the first two innings on an RBI double and a two-run single.
In the circle, Starkey’s results were similar to her Game 1 victory. She allowed one run and gave up eight hits but needed just 74 pitches to get through seven innings against the state’s No. 7-ranked team.
But the situations were much different on Saturday.
Starkey was in trouble throughout the game, allowing baserunners in the first five innings — more than one in the first, third and fifth innings.
“I wasn’t tense at all,” Starkey said. “I thrived on it. I love games with that atmosphere.”
After allowing a run in the first, Starkey kept the the Lady Spartans (27-5) off the scoreboard the rest of the way by working ahead in the count and making their aggressive hitters chase pitches.
“We try to keep it as simple as possible,” Medford said. “We want to get ahead of batters. When you’re ahead, you can fish on the corner and make them swing at some bad stuff. When you’re not ahead, it’s a different story.”
The first inning could’ve been much different for Centennial after Guyer (27-5) put up two runs. Starkey got a groundout to start the inning before giving up three straight hits, including an RBI single by Madison Montgomery. After that, Montgomery was called out for leaving first base early on an ensuing single, which was nullified, turning a two-on, one-out situation into a two-out, bases-empty one.
“It was huge,” Medford said. “It’s just one of those things. We were getting those types of breaks that we didn’t get in Game 2. That’s just how it goes. People can say what they want, but the bottom line is we played better than they did tonight.”
As tense as Starkey’s first five innings in the circle were, she picked a good time to have her first two clean innings of the night, which came in the sixth and seventh to shut the door and keep Guyer’s season alive.
“That’s what we’ve been saying all year,” Medford said. “She’s so competitive. She steps up in big situations. Tonight was no different than what we see every day. She was great. That was a whole team effort tonight.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.
Guyer 5, Burleson Centennial 1
WP — Shayne Starkey. LP — Ashlee Gibson. 2B — G: Shayne Starkey, Sophia Popowski, Tatum Branch. 3B — G: Hannah Hodapp. Records — Guyer 27-5, Burleson Centennial 27-5.